Member-Guest week is like a holiday for the Branham family, and the first present offered was the lowest score of Thursday’s opening round. Playing in the morning, the Branhams fired a 7-under-par 64 to once again lead after the first round in Canasawacta Country Club’s 54th annual tourney.
Lurking one shot back are defending champions Tim Carson and Scott Seiler Seiler, while the teams of Matt Burrell-Craig Dawson and Brian Loomis-Kevin Schaffner are knotted in third place with 5-under-par 66s.
“My son tells me at the end of the tournament each year that it’s like Christmas, and he hates when it ends because you have to wait another 365 days for it to come around again,” Bob Branham said.
In their ninth year together, the Branhams, two-time champions in 2005 and 2008, opened with 65 a year ago to lead the field by two, but played even-par golf the rest of the way to finish six strokes off the sturdy pace set by Carson and Seiler.
“We started well last year, and hopefully we can keep our foot on the pedal and keep going,” Branham said. “We had such a great start and a good lead, but we kind of got into a defense mode, and you can’t do that. You have to keep making those birdies, not be too cautious, but also be smart about it.”
Starting on the first hole, the Branhams kicked off their tournament with a birdie, and added birds on the fifth and seventh holes to go out in 33 strokes. Much of the back nine belonged to the younger Branham, who eagled the par-five 13th hole, and shot a 2-under-par 33 on his own ball to finish the last nine holes. A birdie on the final hole provided the difference between the Branhams and second-place Carson-Seiler, who are already two strokes ahead of their winning pace from last year.
Loomis-Schaffner made six birdies and one eagle on the day, but bogeyed two of their final four holes. Burrell and Dawson, who started on the 16th hole, were even par through 12 holes when they attacked the par-five 10th with vigor. Dawson hit a massive hook around the dogleg left, and holed out from the fairway for a double eagle two – the first known “albatross” in tournament history. That double eagle was padded by birdies on the 12th and 14th holes as the duo finished the back nine in a mere 29 strokes – 6-under-par.
A total of 15 teams shot even-par or better, but only eight teams qualify for the Masters (championship) Flight. Last year’s cutline for the top flight was 4-under-par, the lowest in tournament history. “I remember when 6- or 7-under-par was good enough to win the tournament,” Branham said. “We’ve been watching the scores get lower and lower, and 12-under-par won it last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if the winning score is closer to 15-under.”
Second-round play continues today with shotgun starts at 8 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Pairings for flights will be compiled following the round and posted at the CCC Pro Shop Friday evening. The complete tournament wrapup will appear in Monday’s Evening Sun.
(4-over-par or better only)
B. Branham-Mike Branham 64
Carson-S. Seiler Sr. 65
M. Burrell-C. Dawson 66
B. Loomis-K. Schaffner 66
D. Rhodes-A. McClymonds 67
T. Mirabito-K. Stewart 68
Just. Bennett-D. Cappadonia 68
Tom Ryan-Tim Ryan 68
Josh Bennett-C. Seiler 69
M. DeMellier-G. Gelsomin 70..